Malaysia is not a failed state but we have a failed government
A Bloomberg opinion editorial (op-ed for short) with the sensationalist title “Malaysia is staggering down the road to failed statehood”  by Daniel Moss on the 9th of July, 2021, has been shared widely on social media. While many may be inclined to agree with the headline given that this lockdown (MCO 3.0) has gone on for more than 2 months with no end in sight due to staggering daily COVID19 positive cases, it is wrong to conclude that Malaysia is a failed state or even heading down that path. What we have is a case of a “failed government” and not a “failed state”. And this “failed government” does not seem to have any clue on how to get us out of this situation.
There are different definitions of what a “failed state” is, but as a political scientist, it is quite clear to me that Malaysia is not and will not become a failed state anytime soon. A failed state is one in which the government, or more specifically, the civil service can no longer function properly, wherein there is a collapse in the decision making and execution process. If Malaysia is a failed state, the vaccination strategy could not be executed, nor the roll-out carried out at the vaccination centres all over the country. There is still a chain of command in operation in the country, starting from the Prime Minister as the head of the executive. The judiciary is still functioning and soon, the legislative i.e. parliament will reconvene.
Instead of a “failed state”, we have a “failed government”. Even those in government should be familiar with the hashtag #KerajaanGagal, which has appeared on social media and banners all over the country. There is no standard political science definition of what a failed government constitutes but I believe that the Rakyat knows one when they see one. The following are the most obvious reasons why this government is a “failed government”:
- Issuing inconsistent SOPs, some which do not make sense, and then U-turning on these SOPs soon after they have been issued
- Decision making by the National Security Council (NSC) that is NOT based on science and data, and NOT coordinated between the various ministries
- Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different / better results in controlling the spread of the COVID19 virus
Even though the situation is very bleak now, as elected representatives, our work to serve the rakyat continues. This includes:
- Working with and support the parts of government that are still responsive and the civil service on the vaccination strategy to bring the numbers down as quickly as possible, to save lives and save the economy
- Working with NGOs and other stakeholders to #KitaJagaKita, to ensure that the welfare of those in need are addressed during this period of economic hardship due to repeated and continuous lockdowns
- Helping SMEs and other businesses survive the pandemic, and prepare for the opening of the economy post-pandemic
I have not been alone in my efforts, and I am encouraged by the many Malaysians who have stood up to help their fellow Rakyat during this pandemic. Despite #Kerajaangagal, let us not lose hope but let us continue to persevere towards the time when we are sufficiently immunised against COVID19 as a country, that we may emerge battle worn perhaps, but not as a failed state.